Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Estate Tax - NOT a Death Tax, NOT a Double Tax

Why do the Repubs get away with saying the Estate Tax is 'double taxation'?

Now, What's Left?

Now, What's Left?

We know what is going on with the Right.

We have come to the understanding (which I and other progressive writers came to 10 years ago) that the authoritarian personality - the core Trump supporter - is not amenable to persuasion, argument or even fact; that they make their political decisions based on the belief that a 'strongman' will keep them safe and it is the bad 'others' who are the real problem. We know that right-wing authoritarians have a much lower threshold for tolerating fear and uncertainty than those who identify as liberal or progressive.

In my book "The Price of Right: How the Conservative Agenda Has Failed America (and Always Will", written while George W. Bush was president, I stated that my biggest worry was what would happen if our right-wing authoritarian populace, activated and intensified by 9/11, were to come into contact with a real social dominator. Bush was an authoritarian, but not a social dominator or even a double-high authoritarian (those who would score high on both authoritarian and social domination scales) although he was surrounded with quite a few double-highs, such as Cheney and Rove. But a real social dominator is without even the vestige of conscience or core intellectual ideology that drives a Cheney.

My fear has come true 10 years later.

A social dominator is the ideal attraction for the authoritarian personality and can command the utmost loyalty and obedience from his followers, and this is why Trump is unassailable as far as his base is concerned. There is nothing that makes an authoritarian feel safer and stronger than being led by a social dominator. They are both completely submissive to their accepted leader and highly aggressive towards anyone that leader dislikes.

As we have seen, this is a complete 'alternate universe' in which we cannot even agree on a set of basic facts, much less have a substantive debate on them.

But as the backlash to the Trump regime is building momentum, and Democrats are increasingly improving the possibility of winning back a majority in the House and Senate, I find myself wondering what the Dems are going to do to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as we always do.

We play by two completely different set of rules, and we get snookered every single time.

When Bush was in power, Democrats did their best to 'play fair', supporting the President and being willing to compromise, hoping that if we give some, that the other side will give some as well. What we got for our pains was a kick in the teeth.

What the left sees as fairness - both sides being willing to compromise in order to move forward - the right sees as weakness and a willingness to betray one's beliefs. To their mind, if you compromise your principles, then you must not have very firm ones to begin with and therefore you don't deserve respect.

So when Democrats came into power and we had a Democratic president who tried to include Republicans and sought out bipartisan solutions, the Republican answer was to completely stonewall everything the President tried to do - shockingly, not just by action but explicitly and in so many words, including the willingness to shut down the government and cripple our global credit rating and stealing the President's Supreme Court nomination. Obama's efforts to reach across the aisle engendered only contempt from the Republicans, while at the same time they accused him of tyranny if he made the only decisions he could with the Republican refusals to engage or participate. They saw him as weak and ineffective at the same time they accused him of being an imperious tyrant.

And now, of course, when the Republicans are back in power and are in complete charge of everything, somehow it's the absolutely powerless Democrats who are responsible for the failure of the Trump agenda.

We're in that same old familiar cycle of Repubs creating huge deficits by wealth redistribution - taking from the middle class and poor and giving it to the rich - and then justifying cutting the social safety net because there's no money left.

And we're in that same scenario where when we try to set an example of sticking to our values, we get screwed, as the Al Franken debacle showed once again. We stand up against sexual assault, they defend their child molesters and sexual predators, and when one of our own is principled enough to accept responsibility for their behavior, we pillory them - yet Repubs excuse their own on the grounds that they do not admit wrongdoing. And we lose a great, honest Senator.

(And I'm sorry to not toe the Dem line here, but I believe that Al Franken should not have lost his seat immediately. I believe that he was, indeed, set up by Roger Stone et al, and that there should have been an inquiry into the circumstances before asking him to fall on his sword to make the point that Dems are principled. And I will also say that if it had been a Republican accused of the same thing, I would feel the same way.)

So - we don't need to figure out the Right any more. We know exactly what's going on with them and why.

We need to figure out the Left and we need to do it now.

And I am really at a loss here.

Why do we keep giving in? Why do we keep rolling over? Why don't we stand up for what we believe in just as strongly as the Right does?

Why aren't we proud to call ourselves liberal in the way that the right is proud to call themselves conservative?

Why is the media afraid to be accused of 'liberal bias'? Why do we let them move the goalposts and work the refs?

Why does the conversation go like this:

    *Some hateful thing by the right*

    Dems: that is hateful

    Repubs: nuh-uh, it's YOU that's hateful

    Dems: well if we did something hateful, we're sorry and won't do it anymore

    Repubs: See? YOU'RE the hateful ones, not us.

    Dems: OK

    Rinse and repeat.

We try to meet their lies with honesty and we always lose.

We need to figure this out and we need to figure it out RIGHT NOW.

The midterms will come up, and we will - maybe - take back the House and/or Senate - or not. There is no way of telling what could happen between now and then.

But these are not normal times, with normal politicians in office. We don't have the luxury of sitting back and hoping something different will happen. The danger that this unhinged, unfit maniac in the White House presents worsens every day - to the tune of possible nuclear war. And if Dems cannot figure out why we act the way we do, we can't figure out how to change it. And if we continue the way we always have in response to right-wing aggression, we will lose even when we happen to be in power.

We need to pursue the research into the same psychology, genetics, social science and neuroscience that has been used to understand right-wing thinking and motivation. Many decades of study have gone into understanding the right.

We do know that progressive ideals have had power in the past. It is not impossible. It can be done. It has been done. The United States itself is a progressive, liberal ideal - the idea that We the People can be our own authority instead of being ruled by an autocrat.

So, what needs to happen in order for us to assert and stand up for our own democratic beliefs and principles the way the Right does? To respect our own values the way we respect the values of others?

We had better figure this out in a hurry. We're running out of time.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Trump's Lies - A Feature, Not A Bug

Many people wonder why Donald Trump lies about things that are easily fact-checked and refutable, and moreover, why he lies about things he doesn't need to lie about?

I have come to the conclusion that he lies - sometimes (maybe even most times) on purpose, and sometimes not knowing or caring if it's true or not - to assert power and domination.

Think about it.

Every time he tells a lie, he is telling the listener that whether it is true or not, what HE says is the reality that will follow.

It is a message to both his die-hard supporters and his 'enemies' - anyone who does not bow down to his greatness.

It is an expression of his power and his ability to remake reality.

To his followers, the message is one of support and safety - if you follow someone so powerful, that power is yours also.

To his enemies, it is a statement of aggression and dominance. He can lie with impunity and not suffer any consequences from it, so therefore his enemies have no recourse against him. He cannot be stopped no matter what he does or says - not even by the truth.

If the sky is blue and Trump says it's green, you are forced to make a choice. Not only that, you are forced into deciding between two 'realities', which automatically puts the lie on a par with the truth - two ideas that must be chosen from. So right there he has put himself in a position of strength. He has elevated his lie to the same level as your truth. This simultaneously boosts his lie and diminishes your truth. This works - but only if he NEVER concedes or retracts his lie.

Then when presented with the overwhelming evidence that he lied, he either lies again and says he never said it, or you took it the wrong way, or he moves the goalposts, or he doubles down and dares you to do something about it.

And the more blatant and obvious the lie, the more powerful the differential. Your truth has lost its power by being compared on the same level as his outrageous lie, and the bigger the difference between the lie and the truth, the more power is ceded to him.

He claims additional power by constantly calling others liars (he is so powerful that he can lie, but no one else can) and by demanding apologies from everyone else (when he has never apologized to anyone ever.) He is different, better and stronger than you - you have to follow the rules but he doesn't. This is another display of dominance and aggression.

Simply put, there is much more power (for him) in lying and getting away with it than there is in telling the truth. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Ignorance is not bliss.

I am really tired of hearing Republicans say, "The people elected him to (smash up Washington, bring back coal jobs, etc. - insert delusion here), so he should get to do whatever he wants, and it doesn't matter if he has no idea what he's doing - he's not a Washington guy and doesn't know (insert protocol here)."

For Paul Ryan to say, "The president is new at this. He’s new to government. And so he probably wasn’t steeped into the long going protocols that established the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses” is simply ridiculous, but it echoes the current excuses talking points that the Republicans are using to obfuscate the fact that the Resident is completely and utterly - even dangerously - unfit for the office he grifted his way into.

If you remember, when Obama became President, the Repubs continually called him an 'amateur' because he had only been in the Senate for a short time. He had, however, been in the Senate, and before that had taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for 12 years, had been a civil rights attorney and had been an Illinois state senator for 3 terms, so even though he had many years of experience and education in law and government at both state and national level, he was mocked by the right as an unqualified amateur.

And you never heard anyone on the right say, "The people elected Obama so whatever his agenda is, is what the people want him to do."

The office of President of the United States is arguably the most important and influential job on the planet.

Why on earth would it be acceptable to have a President who doesn't know what he's doing - and, moreover, refuses to learn?

And when people say they want someone in government who's 'not a politician' - I understand it if you're thinking of the word 'politician' in the derogatory sense. But government has to be run by people who have some idea about what they're doing! Why would you want someone in office who is incompetent?

I've used the example of a person who's never been to medical school being handed a scalpel and sent in to operate on a patient. Sure, every surgeon has a first time operating, but he or she would have many years of education and practice on cadavers, assisting other surgeons, etc., before they would be allowed to cut into a patient. And there are tens of thousands of surgeons in the United States.

But - forget about surgeons; if you were hired at McDonald's you wouldn't be allowed to take a single order or flip a single burger without the proper training. If even the lowest-paid service jobs require a certain expertise before being allowed to interact with the public, why in the world would it be acceptable to have someone in the most powerful position in the world be unqualified?

This is a person who at any given time is four minutes away from wiping all life from the face of the earth.

And to all those people who say, "Give the guy a chance - he's new to this" - he's not interested in learning about the requirements of the job. He's not interested in following any of the rules or protocols - or even laws - that are the parameters of this highly complicated and sensitive job. He insults our allies, but he kisses up shamelessy to our adversaries. He doesn't care about democracy; he prefers - let's be kind and say autocracy. He doesn't care about diplomacy; he prefers military aggression. If he really cared about the job, he'd be busting his ass 24/7 to learn about it. He'd be humble about his lack of knowledge and do whatever it took to become qualified. 

But he's not interested.

All he's interested in is what he's been interested in his whole life: Donald Trump and his own glory, power and money.

Laws, rules and protocols are just obstacles to his autonomy.

And the sad thing - the awful, frightening thing - is that the Republicans could not care less.

As long as they have a lock on every branch of the government, they will not do anything that will endanger their control of the White House, the House, the Senate and the Judiciary. They are so close to getting everything they have ever wanted with no interference from Democrats that there is nothing they won't put up with from this malevolent clown and his family of grifters and shills. They will not impeach him. No matter what. They will turn themselves inside out until their heads spin right off their necks to justify keeping Trump in office.

Republicans know that even though they would have a President Pence to take his place that they would lose Trump's 'base' - those people are not Pence fans and would not be unquestioningly loyal to hiim. Trump's power is in the relationship beween a social dominator and his authoritarian followers, and you cannot just substitute another person into that relationship. They also know that the scandal of an impeachment would hamper their ability to pursue any legislation, and at the next election they would be wiped out the way they were after Nixon.

So, as much as I am interested in Comey's testimony and the investigation into the Russian attacks on our elections and the question of Trump campaign collusion or complicity, I don't see it leading anywhere right now. I wish I could. But no matter what the outcome of these hearings and investigations, the fact remains that you cannot prosecute a sitting president. It's not that the president is above the law; it's that the job of the president is important enough that any criminal prosecution can wait until he is out of office. Impeachment is possible, but only by having articles of impeachment brought by the House, and subsequent prosecution by the Senate. And with Republican majorities in both bodies of Congress, that will not happen.

I'm not ruling out the possibility of something so egregious happening, or being brought to light, that there is simply no way around it, because Trump is such a walking dumpster fire that there is no telling what he's capable of. In the four short months (although they seem interminable) that he has occupied the White House, he has done so many unimaginable things that nothing - absolutely nothing - he does would surprise me. But as things stand today, I don't see anyone being able to stop him for a good while.

That does not mean that we should not fight him at every turn - fight against 'normalizing' his egregious, offensive, dangerous words and actions as 'a different way' of being President - not just about him, but about the precedent that his behavior sets for future Presidents, who may be a whole lot smarter, more cunning and more dangerous than he. We have to challenge him and fight him and expose him relentlessly, because every time he gets away with someone saying "Oh, he's different; he comes from the business world" or "That's just his personality" or whatever other excuses they make for his aggression, his vengefulness, his dictatorial tendencies, his disregard for any constraints - legal or moral - on his behavior, his lack of decency, his unwillingness to do what Presidents are supposed to do and act the way any democratic world leader is supposed to act, our democracy crumbles a little bit more.

There may already be irreparable damage to our world standing and relationships with our allies; even when he goes, even if we get a new President who tries to repair the damage, because of how he has treated our best friends and most dependable allies, they are not sure that they can trust that another Trump won't come along and do the same thing again. This has caused a distance between us and our closest friends that may not be able to be undone. This he has done singlehandedly. In a matter of months.

His aggression from the 'bully pulpit' has also encouraged physical violence in his followers, and his example has made it socially acceptable for white supremacists, anti-immigrants, anti-Semites, misogynists, and anti-LGBT people to take their hateful rhetoric to the level of physical attacks on people and property, as well as attacking the free press, both verbally and physically - so much that a man who physically attacked a reporter because he didin't like what the reporter said was elected to the House of Representatives and nobody said boo.

So, without power to actually stop him at this point, our only choice is to continue to speak out, to make our voices heard, to witness and record, and most of all to refuse to accept him and his behavior as normal or acceptable.

It is not.

And to go along with it because "there's nothing we can do" is doing something - it is endangering our precious democracy in a way that it may not be able to recover from.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We Don't Need a 'Different Kind of President' - We Need a Different President


Enough talking about how Trump is a 'different kind of President'. Enough making excuses for his unacceptable behavior. Enough saying he should be 'taken seriously but not literally'.

Do you hear what you are saying, you idiots?

You are saying that it's OK for the President of the United States to lie.

And it's our job to deal with it and try to figure it out somehow.

That is crazy talk, my friends.

This is not a question of Democrat or Republican, of left or right. To be honest, Donald Trump could have just as easily been a Democratic candidate. For most of his life, his political leanings (as well as his party registration) have been aligned with the Democratic party. His personal life certainly has not hewed to what would be considered traditional conservative values, to say the least. And many of his earliest stated positions are not typically Republican either - on trade, on international relations, on health care, on Social Security and Medicare.

So, no, we're not talking Democrat or Republican here. We're talking a dangerous authoritarian demagogue that has managed to weasel, bluster and lie his way into the most powerful office in the world.

Simply put, we have a liar as President of the United States.

I suppose you could call that a 'different kind of President'.

Barely two months in, and he has already insulted and damaged our relationship with our closest allies (Great Britain, NATO), telegraphed support and approval to some of the world's most despotic and dangerous rulers (Putin, Duterte), and provoked an unstable and volatile adversary (North Korea). He is so completely unfit for office that there is a serious likelihood that he could get us into a nuclear confrontation. Like many autocrats, he adores the trappings and public display of military power (although avoided military service of his own).  He wanted to parade tanks down Pennslylvania Avenue at his inauguration. He has said that "we have nukes - why don't we use them?"

Unfortunately, it seems that the Republican party is so invested in their agenda that they don't care what he does as long as he signs what they want him to sign. Removing him from office, even though they would still retain a Republican president, would damage their ability to move legislation with the speed that they need to enact all the pet projects that a balanced government with any input from Democrats whatsoever would prevent or at least mitigate - privatizing Social Security and Medicare, eliminating the Department of Education, the EPA, neutering the Department of Labor and the FDA, selling off federal lands, doing away with any regulatory protections from pollution, poisons, workplace regulations, etc., that could possibly hamper corporate profits, eliminating consumer finance protections against predatory lending policies, giving religious views of corporations priority over women's right to healthcare and family planning of their choosing (to name only a few.)

This is their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you can bet they are not going to kill the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs. They get the Golden Eggs, and we get the Goose.

And this is happening in only two months of this Residency.

He must go.

Before he destroys American democracy. Before the worst-case scenario, which was unthinkable for any previous American president, but a possibility now - nuclear war.

Enough. We don't need a 'different kind of President'. We need a different President.